ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- In a season marred by inconsistency, Matt Carpenter has been solid rock in choppy waters for the Cardinals. The 30-year-old leadoff man was rewarded for his performance Tuesday, being selected for the National League All-Star team.
“This will be the third one and I’m excited. That doesn’t go away at all,” he said, adding how humbled he is to be chosen to represent the team. “It’s hard to believe sometimes that you’re getting that opportunity.”
The selection is a recognition of what Carpenter believes to be the best first half of his career. He leads the NL in OPS (1.008), is second in doubles (25), fourth in triples (5), and leads every hitter in on base percentage by 10 points (.427). He’s also hit 14 homers and driven in 53 RBIs.
Carpenter has done all this while switching from third base back to second, a change that can upset a player’s comfort. Instead, he made the change without protest and kept right on chugging.
“He’s one of those ‘what’s best for the club’ kind of guys. He doesn’t just say it. When he gets the opportunity to show it, he does,” Mike Matheny said. “That’s a great example to set for the rest of the guys.”
GM John Mozeliak went further in his praise, saying Carpenter has developed into something of the face of the franchise.
“That’s not just the success you have on the field, it’s the leadership you bring to the clubhouse. You look at his evolution, the ability to play multiple positions when asked, never complains, always been a great teammate,” Mozeliak said. “He’s someone, from an organizational standpoint, you’re lucky to have that player.”
The Cardinals have been incredibly fortunate to have him atop their lineup, one that has hovered around the scoring lead all season. There was some discussion this offseason about the possibility that Carpenter is a better fit lower in the lineup, where his power could yield more RBIs. But after 82 games, there’s little doubt that decision would remove the best leadoff hitter in the game from the lineup spot he was seemingly born to fill.
“I feel like I’ve done a good job in that role, but I’ve said it all the time and I’ll continue to say it, I’m comfortable anywhere in the lineup. If it suits our team better for me to move, then I’ll be willing to do that,” he said. “But I certainly think I’ve done a good job of what I need to do as a leadoff hitter.”
Thank goodness he’s a ball player, because he really doesn’t know how to sell.
Carpenter has dominated his competition in the leadoff spot. He’s walked 20 more times than the next closest NL leadoff man and his on base percentage is more than 30 points higher than the second place candidate. He’s third in average and tied for the most home runs. He leads in doubles and has nine more RBIs than anyone else atop the order.
He sees 4.3 pitches per plate appearance, doing yeoman's work when trying to show his teammates what an opposing pitcher is working with.
“The best at bats for me are when I can find a way to see five or six pitches, see everything he’s got and get a chance to get on base,” he said.
He’s put up 162 total bases on the season, tied for 10th overall in the NL.
Carpenter’s prolonged surge began at the tail end of May, just after he returned from paternity leave. Following the birth of his daughter, Carpenter’s offensive numbers exploded, leading him to think he may have the secret to baseball success.
“Maybe I got my ‘dad strength’ that people talk about. If that’s a real thing, then maybe so,” he said with a smile.
Prior to his daughter being born, Carpenter was slashing .250/.378/.506 with 11 doubles and nine homers.
After, he slashed .383/.496/.687 (an OPS of 1.183) with 14 doubles and five more bombs. Despite jokes about mythical strength born of paternity, Carpenter did say something changed after his family got bigger.
“I definitely think it was a weight off my shoulders. Carrying that load early on in the season, the anticipation, just the nerves and stress that come with having a child. Once she arrived and was healthy and all that good stuff, it’s certainly been a relief. And it’s been fun to go home and see her. It picks up your spirits and I think that’s a pick part of it,” he said.
He plans to take his daughter with him to the All-Star Game, which is a fitting ‘thank you’ since she helped him get there.
Carpenter was the only Cardinal All-Star announced Tuesday, though more may be added as certain players are unable to attend the game. Both Mozeliak and Matheny felt they had other candidates that should have been considered. Aledmys Diaz has had a tremendous first half, hitting .313 and belting 11 homers at short. Matheny felt Yadier Molina was deserving and Mozeliak mentioned both Carlos Martinez and Seung Hwan Oh as pitchers with a case to be included on the NL squad. Both the GM and manager lobbied Terry Collins on their players’ behalf.